Community Action Celebrates 50 Years of Helping People, Changing Lives

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Community Action in America. To commemorate this historic event, we will highlight the 50 Best Things About Community Action throughout the year by sharing a success story with you each week from each of the 50 Community Action Agencies in Ohio.

Community Action Agencies were created as part of the Economic Opportunity Act, also known as the War on Poverty, which was signed into law on August 20, 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

This historic Act embodied a work-and-training model rather than an income transfer strategy. The goal was not to redistribute tax dollars, but to equip low-income people with the skills to work their way out of poverty. Many of the programs founded in the act, such as Community Action Agencies, still exist today and are continuing to help struggling families gain the skills needed to become self-sufficient. “We are proud of our strong history of helping people help themselves,” said Philip E. Cole, executive director of the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies. “Over the past 50 years, we have seen great success, including a decline in poverty of 10 percent in the first five years after the act. We have weathered changing economic conditions, recessions and other difficult times, but we have continued to help people move out of poverty.”

Community Action Agencies work to alleviate poverty and empower low-income families in their local communities. For 50 years, CAAs across the country have provided the tools to help people move from poverty to self-sufficiency, helping 20 million Americans achieve and maintain financial stability each year through programs that include job training and placement assistance, transportation, child care, food pantries and assistance with meals, rental and mortgage assistance, energy assistance programs, assistance with health care and prescriptions, and much, much more.

In 2012, Ohio’s CAAs helped over 150,000 people acquire a job or reduce one or more employment barriers. More than 480,000 low-income people were aided in securing safe, affordable housing. CAAs in Ohio also helped the health and welfare of over 1 million low-income families by helping them receive medical care and screenings, prescription assistance, food and clothing.

“For 50 years, Community Action Agencies have been essential resources,” said Cole. “Our programs are unique. They are targeted to local issues and run by local people who want to help their neighbors. We are the only network that works to move people out of poverty. Whether from economic conditions, an illness or layoff, when people need assistance Community Action will be there, not to provide a hand out, but a hand up, providing them with the resources, skills and tools needed to help themselves become self-sufficient.”

These 50 success stories will demonstrate the tremendous work that Community Action Agencies do everyday and have been doing for 50 years.

We are proud of our strong history of helping people help themselves and we look forward to sharing our story with you.